LA CAÑADA FLINTRIDGE — While the net result was an 11-8 loss, Tuesday’s nonleague home match against Westridge was a victory of sorts for the young, rebuilding Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy girls’ water polo team.
The Tologs entered the fourth quarter of both teams’ season opener down by five goals and twice cut the margin as low as three, keeping the final minutes competitive.
In a nutshell, that was the difference between this loss and the many which the Tologs persevered through last season.
“It was a good game all the way to the end,” said fourth-year Tologs Coach Robert Curreri, whose team struggled to a 2-13 record and went winless in the Mission League last season. “A lot of these players are first-year players, so I wasn’t really sure what we were going to have or how we were going to match up, but I was very happy.
“Compared to other first games of the season we’ve had, this is a real good place to start.”
Sacred Heart ran its half-court offense smoothly and got a combined 20 shots off in the second and third quarters alone.
Olivia Gonzales scored all four of the Tologs’ first-half goals, including a shot from three quarters of the length of the pool at the second-quarter buzzer to bring Sacred Heart within 6-4.
But, for the most part, finishing was a problem for the team, particularly in the third quarter. It was there that Westridge took control of the match, outscoring Sacred Heart, 3-0, while Tigers goalkeeper Kenza Guissous picked up six rather easy saves on tentative shots.
“We weren’t able to put away all of our shots, but I was just happy we would get the ball to our two-meters and the two-meter player would step out and be able to get a shot, I would say, 75% of our possessions,” Curreri said. “We had good balance and we weren’t getting countered every possession — that’s a big thing I look for — our defense was pretty solid.”
Less than 40 seconds into the fourth quarter, Lauren Shonka converted a deep straightaway shot during a Tologs’ 6-5 advantage to cut the Tigers’ lead to 9-5.
Shaylyn Stanley, who notched seven saves while playing goalkeeper in the first half, came up with a steal and drove the length of the pool for another Tologs goal at the 4:22 mark.
Sacred Heart could do no better than trade tallies with Westridge down the stretch, however, as Stanley and Gonzales each scored additional goals.
“For a lot of players, this is their first game, so I thought we did pretty well,” Curreri said. “[It’s gonna take] confidence. Our program hasn’t had a lot of wins. We haven’t scored a lot of goals, so these players have just gotta know what it’s like to finish [goals] and get that confidence.”
GABRIEL RIZK covers sports. He can be reached at (818) 637-3226 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.